After Kamala Harris' Vogue cover leaked online on Saturday, Jan. 9, it caused a stir on Twitter for all the wrong reasons. Many people felt that the February 2021 cover did the vice president-elect a disservice. Some criticized the photo's lighting, pointing out how magazines often fail people of color, and others described it as "disrespectful" and "far, far below" the magazine's usual standards. On Thursday, Jan. 12, the editor-in-chief of American Vogue, Anna Wintour, responded to the backlash.
"Obviously we have heard and understood the reaction to the print cover and I just want to reiterate that it was absolutely not our intention to, in any way, diminish the importance of the vice president-elect's incredible victory," Wintour said in a statement issued to The New York Times podcast Sway. "We want nothing but to celebrate Vice President-elect Harris' amazing victory and the important moment this is in America's history, and particularly for women of color all over the world."
On the cover, the VP-to-be is standing against a pink and green backdrop — a nod to her Howard University sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha — wearing a power suit and Chucks, a look she's been known to wear well. Unfortunately, it wasn't the image her team had chosen. "This is not the cover that the Vice President-elect's team expected,” journalist Yashar Ali tweeted after seeing the image, adding that this was not the picture that was "mutually agreed upon," and that the cover was supposed to feature Harris in a powder blue suit.
On Sunday, Jan. 10, hours after the social media backlash, Vogue officially unveiled not one but two covers: one that had inspired so much criticism, and one of Harris in the suit.
At that point, it was reportedly too late for the magazine to make a full change. "I'm told this cover on the left will be the digital cover," Ali tweeted on Sunday, "but the much maligned cover on the right has already gone to print and will be the cover available for sale and sent to subscribers."
In Wintour's statement, she added that there was "no formal agreement" in terms of which cover would be used, but maintained that the editorial team felt that the less formal image "reflected the moment that we were living in" — citing the accessibility and authenticity of Harris in Chucks.
While the second cover received a much warmer reception, that didn't erase the initial criticism. As Twitter users were quick to point out, magazines need to do better when it comes to photographing and featuring people of color. Many called out Vogue’s history and leadership in particular.
The feature itself highlighted Harris' groundbreaking career both before and after being elected the first Black, South Asian, and female vice president. Acknowledging the "great responsibility that comes with being a first," she reiterated her desire to "make sure [she's] not the last." So although the first Vogue cover featuring a female vice president wasn't the one people wanted, it will, at least, not be the last.
This article was originally published on